Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Falling into place

Although I was really down when I wrote my last post after yet another rejection, several good things have happened over the last 4 weeks. It feels like things are falling into place, and I am generally in a better mental place.

First of all, we moved into our own place. I only mentioned it right when we moved, but from Christmas until April 1 we lived with my mother-in-law (and a bunch of other people too, actually, in an intentional community). We had two bedrooms in the basement of a shared house so most of our stuff was stored elsewhere during that time, and our dog had to stay on a farm with my sister-in-law. It was great to be there with my amazing MIL while we started to get settled, but we were ready to have our own kitchen and living room again! We were waiting until the tenants in the house she rents out found a new place to live, which was delayed a month longer than originally planned. We are now thrilled to be reunited with our dog and the rest of our belongings in a house that is plenty big and even has a yard! After 6.5 years in Big City with a balcony, I am excited to have some dirt to dig in.

Then Adele and I went to visit my parents, and they watched her while I spent a couple of days at Small Friendly College. I talked with students about graduate school and my path as a woman in science. I was feeling pretty awful about my career going into this time, and I joked that I hoped I'd get some useful insights-- and I did. I realized that the students I was talking to faced the same challenge I did-- to convey their diverse skills and experiences in a way that makes them come across as broadly qualified without sounding scattered and enthusiastic while being genuine. While talking to people there about my part-time postdoc, they helped me view it more positively and stop presenting it like it's not a real job. I came back feeling generally more optimistic and patient about my career.

Right after returning, I had lunch with a woman who I met several years ago when she interviewed to be my boss at the field station where I worked before grad school. Now she works at Exciting Non-Profit in Hometown and last month I applied for a job there. During our lunch conversation, I learned more about the position and she told me they were planning to invite me for a formal interview! It is scheduled for tomorrow, and it's four hours long! More about that below.

Last week, my postdoc advisor Dana told me that now she has not just 3 months part-time, not just 3 months full-time, but SIX months of full-time hours budgeted for me now, which I can spread out as long as I want while I continue to look for jobs! I'm about to start in a big re-analysis of some data for her, and there are two more similar projects. All projects that I can be a co-author on. Dana is almost single-handedly keeping me in science right now, and I am grateful.

Another thing that has been a source of frustration has been juggling work around caring for Adele. We've been in a childcare catch-22: We need to work more to be able to afford childcare, but we need childcare to be able to do more work. This is true for both of us. I truly feel like I would have already found a full-time job here if I wasn't so tied up caring for Adele. There are several jobs that have come up in the last month as well as unrealized networking potential, and I just haven't been able to do it, let alone make time to advance my dissertation chapters (UGH!). After moving where we intend to live for the foreseeable future, we started looking seriously for childcare. I thought starting her 2-3 days per week would be a manageable expense, but then after discussing with Jon the amount Dana has budgeted for me, we decided to go for full time. We contacted a few places that wouldn't have an opening for her until August 2015 (more than a year from now!), and I was generally overwhelmed and discouraged by the whole thing. But to make a long story short, last week we visited a friendly, organized, in-home daycare that is less than a mile away with an immediate opening, so we started her full-time yesterday! This frees up both of us to work MUCH more, and I think it will be good for her to spend time with other kids.

I am excited about my job interview tomorrow, but I am not going to pin all of my hopes and dreams on it. I have a job for at least 6 months now, so I'm not desperate. I don't need this job. There will be others. I can go in feeling good about the work I'm doing now and present it and my journey over the last year positively. No one wants to hire a bitter, desperate person any more than they want to date one, so I'm incredibly thankful that things have started falling into place.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bad, bad, good, bad

I had two video interviews in early March, but didn't make it to the next round for either. That was a bummer, but it's the kind of thing that I may be able to apply for in the future when I have more experience under my belt (presumably!). Still, I feel like I failed in the interviews and in hindsight have regrets about how I answered some of the questions.

Those rejections made me feel like my last hope for a career in science was wrapped up in a proposal I submitted to further develop my database project from my PhD. I put a ton of effort into that application right after we moved to Hometown. I told Jon that I'd start thinking seriously about what to do outside of academia if I didn't get that fellowship. I told Dana (my part-time-postdoc PI) that I felt like it would be the end of my career in science if I didn't get it. In that same conversation, she told me the good news that she has more money in the grant to pay me for at least another 3 months full time after the 3 months of part time. At least there's that while I keep looking for something more permanent.

Guess what? I didn't get the fellowship. I wasn't expecting to hear anything until next week, so I was caught off guard and unprepared. I was going to have some beer on hand to drown my sorrows or celebrate. Instead, I was nursing my daughter when I got the email, and I just sobbed and cried. A form letter rejection telling me about all the great applications, hard decisions, and the "don't let this discourage you" crap. I'm going to email them asking for more specific feedback and hopefully that will be useful.

It's hard not to take it personally. It's really hard not to feel like 'science' doesn't 'want' me. It's also hard for me to continue to be positive, because honestly I feel pretty bitter and snarky. I must be doing something wrong, because how can it be taking me this long to find a job? I need a job, preferably with permanence (>1 year) and benefits. We really need the money, and I need it for my self-esteem. I don't even care if it's not science as long as it pays well and I feel useful. I've got to get out of this terrible mental space.